NORWOOD, N.J. — The restaurant industry is all Nick Gjevukaj of Norwood has ever known.
He and his brothers would tag along to help their father, Gino Gjevukaj, run Il Brunello in New Rochelle, N.Y.
It wasn’t long before he was washing dishes and busing plates.
The big change came for Gjevukaj in February 2003 when his father bought Dimora in Norwood. That's when he left his job in finance at 21 years old.
“That was a really big step for us,” he said. “My dad was like, ‘Let’s take a shot at this. If we all work together, we can turn a profit.’”
And they did. The family took over and opened several more restaurants including:
- Rugova in River Edge
- Sear House in Closter
- Sear House Grill in Little Falls
- Barka in Mountain Lakes
- Primavera in Croton Falls, N.Y.
Nick went on to become the restaurant manager at Dimora, which meant longer hours and more stressful days.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
"I like talking to people, getting to know people," Gjevukaj said. "Seeing families grow — stuff like that is just awesome."
“It’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to us.”
Except for when it isn't.
It was the weekend before Christmas 2013 and Dimora was hopping. People had been waiting almost one hour to be seated, and some guests were getting antsy.
He had a bit of a meltdown trying to seat everyone, and even offered dessert on the house to people who waited a bit longer.
Still, Gjevukaj felt terrible.
"I made a Facebook post about how badly I felt," he said. "I wrote that if the people waiting saw it they could take me up on free dinner."
Providing diners with the best experience is all Gjevukaj wants.
A long wait can take away from that. On the other hand, he said, suppose a restaurant has a lot of open tables on a Saturday night.
"Would you really want to eat there?" he asked. "Either the place is brand new, or it's struggling."
The guests who continue to come back and support Gjevukaj and his restaurants have become more than customers.
"Most of the business is repeat customers, so I've really enjoyed getting to know these people," he said. "I consider them really close to me — like family."